Healthy vs unhealthy coping skills worksheet

What is the theory behind this Healthy vs unhealthy coping skills worksheet?

Coping skills are certain cognitive, behavioural and  emotional strategies that we utilise in our daily lives to reduce distress, unpleasant emotions and deal with problems. 

This worksheet is based on the ‘Health Theory of Coping’, according to which the type of coping skill used depends on the intensity of the negative emotions. Unhelpful skills are used mostly when helpful skills have failed to reduce emotional arousal. Evidence also suggests that healthy coping skills are linked with better mental health and wellbeing while unhealthy ones enhance distress and contribute to mental illnesses. 

How will the worksheet help?

This worksheet will help educate individuals about healthy and unhealthy coping styles by providing a comprehensive list that they can use to assess their own style of coping. This can also help the therapist understand which of the client’s coping styles are contributing to their current issues. A coping skill building session can be planned accordingly. 

How to use the worksheet?

This worksheet can be used in counselling and therapeutic settings to assess the current coping styles of individuals seeking help for their distressing emotions. It can also be utilised both in individual and group settings. 

Instruct the client to go through the listed coping skills and identify which are the ones that they use in times of distress and challenging life situations.They can also identify any others from their own experiences apart from the one listed. 

Healthy vs unhealthy coping skills worksheet

Coping Skills are emotional, cognitive and behavioural strategies that we use to deal with negative emotions and problematic situations in our daily lives. They vary a great deal depending on the person and the situation. While all such coping skills help us through bad times some are actually causing more harm than good in the long run. Read through the provided list and assess which coping skills do you use most often.  

Healthy Coping SkillsUnhealthy Coping Skills
Using positive self talk Distracting yourself with any healthy activity to take a breakOvereating/Emotional eating/Binge EatingBecome overly critical of yourself
Using a solution oriented approachChallenge your negative thoughtsProcrastination or avoidance (neglecting obligations, work etc)Avoid the problem through any means
Physical Activity/ExercisingUtilising your knowledge of your strengths to make the best of the situationSelf harm – engage in reckless behaviours for self harming behavioursShow aggression towards objects or people
Relaxation techniques such as Yoga or Deep BreathingShowing compassion to yourself Social Withdrawal – staying in your room, refusing to talk to anyoneConsistently ruminate about the past /things you cannot change
Spend some quality time with family or friendsDoing self-soothing activitiesSubstance abuse (drugs or alcohol)Either getting too little sleep or too much of it
Doing self-soothing activitiesUsing grounding techniques to focus on the presentEngage in negative self talkUninterrupted and excessive screen time (watching TV series, movies etc)
Which of the above do you use? Mention any other healthy coping skills that get you through bad times.

Which of the above have you noticed yourself doing? Mention any other unhealthy coping skills that you have noticed yourself doing in the past.


Stallman, H.M (2020) Health theory of coping. Australian Psychologist, 55, 295– 306.

Stallman, H.M. (2017). Coping Index. Adelaide: University of South Australia

You can download this worksheet here.

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